I'm going to warn you now, this is one of my longer posts, but I think you'll enjoy it . . .
The Phish Tank (all of us out here swimming around in a Phish-induced state of bliss, even though they have not played together in almost four years, if nothing comes down then I'm forced to swim up!!!) was awash in news this week with the revelation that Trey Anastasio "graduated" from drug court in Washington County, New York (home of Glens Falls), and that the band decided to release on DVD its 1997 show from Walnut Creek, Raleigh, North Carolina -- my home of seven years!
First off, here is the closed circuit video from the Washington County courtroom where Trey received what looks like a "diploma" of sorts, gave a little speech acknowledging that his wife, Sue, two daughters (Billy & Harry [I think his second daughter's nickname is Harry and Sue's nickname is The Captain, but I could be very wrong here. I know for sure his first daughter's nickname is Billy]) and his mother were all in the audience.
Here's to you Trey for following through, and not fucking up and landing in prison, like so many people do who enter a court mandated program. Those things are expensive to attend, the classes are long (three hours per night), tedious and boring -- and I think the court makes it that way, forcing the recovering addict to commit themselves to something that takes serious effort to get through -- and it's very easy, especially during the first couple of weeks, to go about your daily business, forget you have a class to attend (they often start at funky hours during a weekday) and get kicked out of the program for failing to attend.
Unfortunately, not everyone out there is rooting for the hero of our story.
Before I watched the video for a second time and heard him pointing out his family in the back of the room, I had to look twice to see if he still had his wedding ring on. I've gotta admit, I felt happy when I saw that gold band still wrapped around the finger on his left hand. Sue must be one incredible woman to put up with the shit that Trey has gone through over the last, well, eight to 10 years, really (I've read where Trey says the "bad drugs" started infiltrating Phish's backstage scene circa 1998).
Also, on a funny side note, check out the dudes sitting in the jury box. I'm pretty sure those are the guys he went through his drug classes with! Something about seeing those guys and thinking about them sitting in a counseling session talking about drug abuse with Trey strikes me as humorous, in a Rod Serling sort of way . . .
Incidentally, why don't we ever hear anything about Trey's dad? The one and only time I heard him mentioned was when I saw the Trey Anastasio Band -- the big band with Russ Lawton, Tony Markellis and Jennifer Hartswick -- at the Merriweather Post Pavillion in Maryland back during Summer Tour 2001. Trey came out for his encore, and it was either just before he started into Ether Sunday -- one of my favorite TAB songs of that band's entire repertoire -- or while the band was vamping on the intro, when Trey was thanking people, talking about when he first went to Burlington to check out the University of Vermont, went into a local bar/club and saw Tony's band playing.
He said he decided right then and there that if there were musicians who were that good living and playing in Burlington that that was the place where he was going to enroll in college. Trey said something like, "So, give it up for Tony, because if it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here right now." Then he went on to point out his dad was sitting somewhere down front, saying, "And I can say for sure that if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here right now." (Check the FLACs . . . he says it!)
Second, the new DVD coming out this August -- July 22, 1997, Walnut Creek -- documents one of my favorite shows to listen to of all time -- it's better listening back than it was being there; one of those shows. The best part about that night is that during the first set, a good ol' summertime, Southeastern thunderstorm was brewing over the Triangle, headed straight for Walnut Creek. Now, keep in mind if you've never been to Walnut Creek (it's one of the better, aesthetically, outdoor sheds in the U.S.) the venue is surrounded by trees, so when you are standing inside looking out over the edge of the man-made bump, all you can see are pine trees, weeping willows and massive magnolias billowing in the breeze.
Well, on this particular night the wind started blowing hard at the front of that storm -- so hard that leaves were being ripped from those trees, spinning through the air, giving off a distinct Wizard of Oz feeling. (In fact, I remember this girl from up north who happened to be standing next to me on the lawn leaned into my ear and said, "Do you think a tornado is coming?")
Anyway, by the time they got into Taste, the storm was beyond brewing and into a nice, rolling boil, and it kept raining and blowing harder and harder as the song went on; the more intense the storm became, the more intense the band played -- or was it the other way around? Depends whom you ask, but I do distinctly remember Trey watching the storm, and the lighting it spawned by this point, when they got to the "Arabian" section of the Taste jam, and at one point he and Mike gave each other a long look.
I remember thinking at the time they were either trying to decide whether Phish should keep going or stop playing for safety's sake-- well, they kept going, and when the song peaked so did the storm, and when the jam reached it's distinct, tight ending, the storm let up immensely, to the point where it was no longer a little stressful standing outside on the lawn watching lighting bolts hit all around us.
So, this DVD is well worth the price of admission. Judging by the information on Phish.com it looks as if the video comes from the cameras they used to project footage on the two screens at the top of the shed's roof that give everyone on the lawn at Walnut Creek a better view of the band. (It's a better view of the action, man, as Florida Joe used to say, cracking me up.)
Finally, I wanted to say that today is June 19, 2008 -- exactly four years since the last time I saw Phish perform, which happened to be at Saratoga Springs, New York (better known as SPAC). My now ex-wife, Rachel, and I drove up from Raleigh (home of Walnut Creek -- like my transition?) to catch the shows in Brooklyn and SPAC before calling it a life. At the time, she was seven months pregnant and looked about ready to pop; she was huge!!!
In fact, we were just talking about this show this morning while we listened to it in her car on the way to get coffee here in Bend, Oregon. She was amazing on that trip. We left Raleigh and drove straight to Virginia Beach, Virginia to catch the first night of the Brooklyn run at the local movie theater. (Virginia Beach, about three hours away and just over the bridge from The Spaceship, was the closest theater to Raleigh screening the show.) The next morning we arrived in New York City just in time to catch the subway to Coney Island for the second night of Brooklyn, and just in time for one of our touring posse to get caught up in the undercover police sting operation busting people for selling drugs in the parking lot adjacent to Keystone Park.
The day after that we took our time driving up to Saratoga . . . anyway, the point is she was terribly pregnant and it was hotter than hell that summer, meaning she was about as comfortable as a nun at a Marilyn Manson concert. She was a trooper, and I'll never forget that. She could have complained the whole time and made our last run of shows a horrible experience, but she managed the entire tour with a smile on her face. She did, however, sleep for just about the entire 10-hour drive back to Raleigh, completely exhausted, dreaming about Phish shows past, I'm sure.
Saratoga marked a huge change in my life. Not only was it going to be my last run of Phish shows, most likely forever (although recent news has me hoping they'll be back in the foreseeable future), but it was Father's Day weekend -- my "first" Father's Day. So, on this Phish "weekend" in 2004, I literally stepped through a door that closed on my past and opened on my future. Phish, which had been such a huge part of my life for the past 12 years (1992-2004) was over for good, and my son, Layne, was coming into this world, and he would become a bigger part of my life than anything before and most likely anything after.
That was one of my favorite things about Phish -- no matter what happened in your life you could always count on them to be there when you needed it the most.
Here's to good Phish memories and hopefully more to come, even if it's only one more memory or two.
It's soooooo sad that here are "No more Phish, in the sea."